One band, one voice: Marching band returns to the field


Sandra Fu

Huron’s marching band concluded their 2021 season on Oct. 1, where they played Viva La Vida, Poker Face and a Daft Punk medley.

Annabelle Ye, Staff Writer

“Band Ten-Hut!” The drum major calls to the marching band.

“Ho!” The band responds. 

Members assume the position of attention: heels together, stomachs in, shoulders back, chins in, heads up. Marching season has begun.    

Each football season, over one hundred members from the symphony band and concert bands join together to put on halftime shows consisting of popular music and unique formations at home football games. However, the tradition was halted due to the COVID restrictions in place during the 2020 school year. Although a necessary precaution, the members of the band program were faced with many challenges following this discontinuation as they reintegrated back into their previous marching season traditions.

“The one thing I was expecting was a lot of uncertainty,” band director Robert Ash said. “You never know where the district is going to stand or what the health department is going to mandate, so you have to take everything day by day and you have to plan, knowing that your plans might have to be totally re-evaluated.”

The experience gap within the marching band proved to be another challenge. About 55 percent of the band consisted of members who had never marched before. On top of having no marching experience, many of these members had not played in a band ensemble since their seventh grade year, which Ash describes as a “huge leap” to high school band. However, the new marchers were not the only ones experiencing this “huge leap.” For junior drum major Catherine Li, her last marching season was in her freshman year. Now, she is one of the leaders of the marching band. 

“Back then, I was marching with the trumpets,” Li said. “Going into this season as the junior drum major was a whole new arena that I did not have much experience in.” 

For the senior drum major, Chris Stocking, the absence of the 2020 marching season introduced an unprecedented challenge. Stocking was chosen for the position of drum major in August of 2020 — a time where all band events were completely virtual, causing him to miss out on the first year of his drum major career. 

“It took a lot of figuring stuff out myself,” Stocking said. “Usually you have your junior year with the senior drum major to show you everything around, and I never really had that. It took a lot of talking to upperclassmen who had already graduated to figure out what I needed to do.” 

With COVID concerns and other scheduling conflicts, many members were also unable to attend marching band camp over the summer, which provides an introduction to marching. Thus, some members went into the season with no exposure to the basics of marching, providing a challenge for the band given the fast-paced timeline of the season. 

“We had to take a step back and reflect on where the students were at,” Ash said, “We had to take them where they were. Maybe that meant not getting all of our drill done, and that’s okay. We could still put on a great show.” 

Despite the many obstacles, the season yielded impressive results. In four weeks, the group of around 170 students put on three marching shows with 10 drill sets. 

“It just goes to show the resilience of students and what their drive can accomplish and their commitment to music and connecting with people around them,” Ash said. “It’s incredible, and that’s what gets me excited. That’s why I’m here.” 

The exceptional results were not possible without certain efforts within the program. For one, there were increased interactions between returning marchers and new marchers. The returners were urged to act as a helping hand for the new marchers through cueing all of the moves and taking time on the field to teach and help. 

“I live by this mantra, and I’ll say it again: ‘If you can, you must.’ If you can help, you have to,” Ash said in regards to the expectations set for the members of the band. 

Additionally, the community bond within the band program contributed to the success of the season. For Li, the start of her time as the drum major was nerve wracking. However, that feeling changed after experiencing the tremendous support of her peers. 

“Just hearing people be like, ‘Yo, that’s my drum major,’ made me feel like ‘Oh, these people want me here,’” Li said. “Through band camp and now, I didn’t expect to have such a strong group of people who I can genuinely depend on, and it has been great to see how everyone shows up for one another and is there when people need them.”

With the end of another marching season and a return to a certain degree of normalcy, many have new perspectives and a redefined appreciation for the band program. 

“It’s a joy to get to play music together, and that was something that was taken away from us,” Ash said. “It is something that we didn’t think could be taken away from us, and it’s amazing how easily it can be.”